I just read Pam Stout's post about toddlers reading on Ann Arbor.com. And I admit it. I've done it. I've stared, slack-jawed, at the "Your Baby Can Read" commercial on a late night once in Pittsburgh. But I was not in awe of the babies; I was in awe of the parents who would isolate their children from learning through discovery and natural experiences, interactions, and materials and park them in front of a television using sight words. YBCR toots an increase in number of connections in the brain being formed. But smartness isn't just about the number of connections; it is about the network of connections. Young brains often have too many connections which will be shed anyway. (Check out "Einstein Never Used Flash Cards" for a quick study on how little brains work; Chapter 2 will be helpful.)
Seriously, why would someone want to teach a baby about sand with a flash card and a man on a video running sand in his hands instead of by having the child pouring sand through a sieve in the sandbox or at the beach? And what associations do we want babies to have with books and reading? I think Jenn McKee answers this nicely in the end of her article on e-reading: making personal connections.
I firmly believe that reading often and early with your children is usually enough. And if you personally are a joyful reader and model your own reading life, help your children find the books and magazines that fit or extend their interests, and have a solid reading program at your children's school, your readers will be in a good place.
When Claudia, at 2, picks up a familiar book and follows the pictures and tells herself the story (even retaining some specific story language)-- that is reading. When she flips through a new book and follows the pictures, provides narration, and makes characters talk-- that is reading. Reading is not just about saying individual words on a page; it is about a reader making meaning.
Sometimes I get really confused: maybe your baby can read, but is this how you want them to do it?